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Life in Prison

Life in Prison

3.8 19
by Stanley "Tookie" Williams

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"The true stories I've written in this book are my living nightmares. My greatest hope is that the lessons the stories offer will help you make better choices than I did." Stanley "Tookie" Williams, cofounder of the notorious Crips gang, is a death-row inmate. But in his two decades of incarceration, Williams has also become a respected author and activist whose


"The true stories I've written in this book are my living nightmares. My greatest hope is that the lessons the stories offer will help you make better choices than I did." Stanley "Tookie" Williams, cofounder of the notorious Crips gang, is a death-row inmate. But in his two decades of incarceration, Williams has also become a respected author and activist whose dedication to ending gang warfare in the lives of inner-city children has earned him a 2001 Nobel Peace Prize nomination. In this award-winning bookwhich has drawn praise from educators, government leaders, and families alikeWilliams describes the brutal reality of being an inmate. He debunks myths of prisons as "gladiator schools" with blunt, riveting stories of overwhelming homesickness, the terror of solitary confinement, and the humiliation of strip-searches. Williams' words are a frank challenge to adolescent readers to educate themselves, make intelligent decisions, and above all, not to follow in his footsteps.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a boy, Williams heard the older kids who'd served time tell stories that made prison sound glamorous and fun, a place to hang out with your friends and prove how tough you were. But now, after 16 years on San Quentin's death row for the murders of four people, Williams (Gangs and Violence), co-founder of the notorious Los Angeles Crips gang, knows that prison "is no place you'd ever want to be." In this slender volume, he explains why: the cramped quarters, lack of freedom and privacy, homesickness, violence and daily indignities (strip searches, having to use the toilet in public). Williams often goes beyond mere description, asking readers to imagine or emulate his experiences ("To get a feel for what it's like to live in a prison cell, test yourself. Spend ten hours--nonstop and alone--in your bathroom"), an effective technique. Though the book's stated goal is to warn kids away from Williams's path, its matter-of-fact, often homogenized tone connotes more of a plea for sympathy than a caution intended to frighten kids. Co-author Becnel's foreword contributes to this problem, although the stark black-and-white photographs of Williams, San Quentin and other prisons and prisoners toughens the tone to some degree. Those concerned that purchasing the book will profit a convicted killer can be reassured: Williams's royalties will be donated to the Institute for the Prevention of Youth Violence. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
When he was seventeen, Williams started the notorious Crips gang in Los Angeles. In 1981 he was sent to San Quentin's death row. Through this book he hopes to guide young adults away from prison. His harsh truth combats the image he was given at age eleven of prison as a place where a young man could prove his toughness. This eighty page easy-to-read book tells the prison facts of life and how they have impacted Tookie. Living in a cell so small he has to turn his body sideways to enter, Williams describes the lack of privacy and privileges, constant noise, strip searches, the insanity of J-cat inmates, the violence, and living in extreme isolation in "the hole." His detailing works well to make the horrors real and he extends this periodically by translating an ugly situation into a teenager's life. For example, he suggests readers can capture the feeling of living in a cell by spending ten hours alone in a bathroom "with no more than a radio, a blanket, a book or magazine, and a couple of sandwiches. More information about Williams and other books he has produced to benefit the Institute for the Prevention of Youth Violence can be found on his web site: www.tookie.com.
Children's Literature - Donna P. Kalloch
This is the life story of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. A co-founder of the Crips gang, Williams tells the story of the downfall that landed him in prison for life. Williams gives a frank and stark look at life on death row in San Quentin Prison in northern California. He describes how bad and limited the food is. He tells how he learned of prison from a family friend who glamorized it as "gladiator school." Early on, prison seemed like fun for Williams. He would soon learn that it was in fact the complete opposite. He gives a stark, shocking description of the cells, facilities, and other inmates. Williams offers a test to the readers to see if they could hack it in prison, to prove to them that it is not a fun place to be. His descriptions seem harsh at first, but he does get his point across. This is a good book for classroom discussions in social awareness and/or crime prevention. It could be a good tool for at risk youths and parents of at risk youths. Photos were taken by the Williams family as well as inmates in the prison.
Williams went from South Central L.A. to San Quentin's death row in 10 short years. He and his friend Raymond Lee Washington co-founded a street gang that became the infamous Crips. Raymond was murdered in 1979, and Stan was sentenced to death two years later for the murder of four people during an armed robbery. His brutal and grim reflections on his life on the inside—the boring routine, narrow options, rules and spaces that chafe the heart and spirit—mirror his reflections on the endless cycle of fear and violence in the streets that lead to fear and violence behind bars. He says "The true stories I've written in this book are my living nightmares... make better choices than I did." Although Williams admits it was normal for kids from his neighborhood to expect to end up in prison, he's hoping his particular reality check, in this book and his Internet Project for Street Peace, will change that prognosis. He first met his co-author, Barbara Cottman Becnel, during interviews for her book on the history of the Crips and Bloods gang warfare. They have also collaborated on an eight-book series about the futility of gang violence. For his efforts to educate young people in the uselessness of anger and violence as a response to life, Williams was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Black and white photographs lend a grainy, gritty realism to the text. This true-life story will serve as a hard-hitting addition to any YA justice collection. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1998, North-South Books, SeaStar, 80p. illus., $4.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Mary Arnold; Reg. YA Svcs. Mgr., Cuyahoga Cty.P.L., Maple Heig , September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-A cofounder of the notorious Crips gang in California recounts his life on death row. Chapters with titles such as "the hole," "rules," and "the strip search" include graphic, disturbing descriptions of prison life and this inmate's reaction to his incarceration. At the end of each chapter, Williams encourages readers to think about aspects of their lives that bother them, or that they take for granted, and consider what these issues are like for a death-row inmate. The author is straightforward about details of his life, and the book is written in a conversational, approachable tone. Black-and-white photos of Williams and fellow San Quentin prisoners are painful reminders of the life he is trying to steer kids away from. The book may leave readers wanting to know more about this man's work with violence prevention. However, it is a sobering personal view of life behind bars.-Carol Fazioli, The Brearley School, New York City, NY

Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.25(d)
1020L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

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Meet the Author

Stanley "Tookie" Williams was on death row at San Quentin State Prison from 1991 until his execution by lethal injection in December, 2005.

Barbara Cottman Becnel has been interviewing Stanley Williams since 1993 and has collaborated with him on his numerous anti-gang education projects. She lives in northern California.

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Life in Prison 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderfully written book that shows what he WAS like and what he later became. Why is so hard for people to accept the fact that people can change even someone such as Tookie! I in no way am trying to justify his past crimes but through education and a spiritual awakening he came to realize that his path was wrong. We need to embrace these people and not exterminate them as they are a voice that youths from the same situations respect and will adhere to. He could have changed people lives with his words even from prison. Further, I do no believe for one second that the crime he was executed for he commited, I believe he was set-up. Captial Punishment in our society needs to be banned across the country because we continuously execute people who are innocent of the crime. The prion system is ugly, racist and inhuman. And by racist I mean against minorites and the poverty stricken. Cops and correction officers can be just as mean as gangsters if not worse!
Guest More than 1 year ago
How can one glorify anyone killing another? Research his crimes from court documents not put together by those of his family and friends. Did you know that he was still calling orders to inmates in prison? Did you know that there were hits on Law Enforcement Officers because of his orders? What you the public know or want to know is nothing but a lie. I have seen first hand what Tookie has done and continued to due up until his death. Remember the people that he killed, they don't have a chance to tell you their story. Can you even remember their names? Think about the pain and horror that they went through during their last minutes, their last breathe or is that not important to anyone??
alymarie123 More than 1 year ago
The book life in prison is written by a man named Stanley Williams. Stanley was one of the people that started a now very large gang, The Crips. He went to prison for killing four people, He was a death row prisoner from 1981 until 2005. While he was in prison he became an anti-gang activist and began writing books for kids telling them why they should stay out of gangs and out of prison. In the book he talked about all the different things that go on in prison, what you do, what you eat, what consequences are, etc. The thing that he wrote about that shocked me the most was the strip searches. I couldn't believe that they have to do all those things every time you leave or enter your cell, I wouldn't be able to handle that I would feel to invaded. Although there was a lot of really good information I didn't really enjoy the book that much because it wasn't really about specific incidents that happened to him, there were a few, but it was mostly about the general things that go on/can go on throughout the prison. Stanley Williams was executed in the death chamber at San Quentin state Prison on December 13,2005.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in prison? Life in Prison by Stanley Tookie Williams will surprise you. When I started to read this book, I thought it would be sad and scary. And I was right! Stanley (aka Tookie) Williams was sentenced to death row because he murdered four people and created a well known gang called The Crips. In this book, Tookie wishes that he could go back and live his life again. He learned to not listen to people who told him that prison would be a good place to live. He regrets starting The Crips because it made him the most wanted man in all of California. My favorite part was how Tookie showed me what prison was really like. In prison, you can't trust anyone and you have to learn all the rules. If you don't follow the rules, you will have to go to The Hole. The Hole is a room the size of a bathroom where prisoners can only sit by themselves and don't get very much food. Tookie was sent to The Hole when there was an earthquake and he thought that the prison was going to collapse on him. This part of the book reminded me of when I get in trouble and got sent to my room. That felt like forever, but now I know that in prison you can be sent to The Hole for many months. I have it easy! The theme of this book is that people need to stop and think about their choices before they make them. Tookie Williams tells the message that he wants teenagers to stop being in gangs and go to school instead. They need to make a better life than what he had. People need to realize what they have. You should buy this book because it actually makes you stop and think about your life. You will see what life would look like if you were in prison and the importance of making good choices. The choices you make today shape your world tomorrow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Life in Prison gives me a whole new view on life. Stanley Williams writes about the mistake he made in his life that costed him his life. His Mistake was the he Formed a gang with his friend Raymond Lee Washington called the Crips. In his book he writes about his life leading up to prison and when he is in prison. He tells stories about his childhood when his childhood idol Rock would tell him stories about when he was in prison for murdering his father. He called them gladiator schools or places to prove how tough you are. When Stanley first arrived in prison he was suprised by what he saw. Also he explains about the dangers having to always watch your back. Your friend could be loyal one minuite and run the next. Also he tells about the crazies that live in prison and the harsh living conditions. Some people get support by their families in prison having people buy them tv's and radios for entertaining themselves and for giving them money to buy some food from the store in prison. But most people do not receive this kind of compassion from the people they care about. Some peoples parents tell them never to try to write or speak to them again. People on death row need the support of their faimly becasue they are not allowed to get a job in prison. If you are not on death row you are expected to work tho making a measly 64 cents an hour at best. This book has opened my eyes at how good i have it and i hope it will help out young people in realizing that joining a gang is not worth it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Donna56 More than 1 year ago
This book may never be nominated for a Pulitzer but I think it can be a useful tool in teaching children about making the right choices. I find this type of reading interesting because it is a side of life that most of us will never experience. The character, Williams, has redeemed himself, to some extent, in prison for the criminal acts he committed prior to his incarceration. The events are realistic and cut to the core. However, the fact that the government sanctioned his murder for committing murder sends the wrong message. Anyone with half a brain realizes that this man, regardless of what we may think of him, could have done so much for society by being allowed to live behind bars. The message that the government sends is "it's wrong for YOU to commit murder, but it's okay for the GOVERNMENT to commit murder. The DOC operates on a budget of over one billion dollars annually but has no oversight committee to answer to. Perhaps if it did, things would be different in the justice system. Programs and educational opportunities would allow inmates to evolve into the kind of next door neighbor you would want. Approximately 98% of all men and woman in prison will someday be released. Who do you want for a neighbor? A mindful, educated person or someone who is angry and hateful? And as for correctional officers in the department of "corruption", there is a special place in hell for the C.O.'s who abuse their power. God NEVER sleeps. The rightous ones will be rewarded. It is a tough job, but only the real cowards become abusive. The "real men" are humane and show some compassion. I will use this book as a tool to guide my son through adolescence. Stanley Williams RIP....
tyler15 More than 1 year ago
This book is about Stanley Williams living the remainder of his life on death row in prison. This man is the founder of a gang called the crips. throughout this book he discusses all the bad choices he made to put him on death row which he regrets every day till the day he was killed. He speaks of how when he was younger his friends older brothers would talk of prison like it was some kinda place that is fun, where tough men go to prove themselves. Then he realized that its the complete opposite of fun when he gets there. The prison Tookie is place in is a maximum security prison called San Quentin State Prison in California. Its where people with the harshest crimes are put. Cause he was the notorious creator of the crips he spent 7 years of his time in solitary confinement, because they thought he had to much power in the gang to be left with the rest of his homeys in minimum lock down. He goes on telling about how lonely and embarrassing prison life really is. They have random strip searches and very little visitation in the maximum security wing. Tookie goes on and on about all the rules they have there, like bed times, tv times, and plenty of others. I thought this was a fairly good book. It was kind of boring because its about prison life and prison life is extremely boring! But for the most part it completed what it was designed to do. Which is to convince kids not to make the same mistakes he did. After reading this book i definitely don't want to go to prison or get in any trouble for that matter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the main character in the book is stanley "tookie" williams. He is in prison for being the cofounder of the crips gang. he used to be able to work out by lifting weights but not anymore cuz the prison took away all of the weight benches. the setting takes place while tookie is in prison. he talks about how there are people that dont take showers cuz they just dont care anymore. some of the people in there are called jcats. a jcat is a person that is crazy and throws feces at other inmates. the cells at a prison are about just big enough for a bed a toilet a sink and some counter space. a day in prison starts with breakfast at about six o'clock in the morning then lunch rolls around at about 11 o'clock and dinner at 4 o'clock. when lunch is given to you it comes in a brown paper bag and you either eat it in your cell or in the exercise yard which ever is assigned to you that day. you get strip searched on a daily basis. during the strip searches every body else can watch you. there are a bunch of different rules that you have to follow while locked up. if you dont follow the rules you can be put into the hole. the hole is a place that is basically like solitary confinement. when your there you dont get any visiting privelges. the cooking in prison is not good at all. the health care in prison is not the best either. if you need some medical attention you get put on a waiting list till the nurse can get to you. the violence in prison can be very bad. i personally like the book because it gives you a good representation of what prison life is like. the book is very believable in the way he talks about the things that go on inside the brick walls. the genre is non fiction. the topic of the book is about prison. i think that this would be a good book for anybody wanting to learn more about prison life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Life In Prison" by Stanley "Tookie" Williams is more of an informational book. It gives the reader a good idea of what it would be like to live in a prison on death row. The information provided in the book is very accurate considering it was written by someone who actually spent 26 years in San Quentin Prison on death row and 6 and a half years in solitary confinment for multipule assults of prison guards and fellow inmates. Tookie Williams was convicted of four murders with special circumstances and robbery in 1979. The jury recommended the death penalty. During his imprisonment, Williams ended his involvement in gang life and became an anti-gang activist and peacemaker. He began to write the book "Life in Prison" in hopes to educate kids about ganglife with the help of Barbara Cottmen Bencel in 1993. Williams legal appeals ran out and was sentened to death on December 13th, 2005 by lethal injection. He was the 12th person to be executed by the state of California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1992.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
tookie williams was an amazing person to come to the realization that his actions werent those of a correct action so he wrote this book and was trying to tell them not to make the same mistakes as himself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tookie should never have been executed. I work with gangs, and I have ordered his books because his life experiences in gangs and in prison will be a great healing asset for gang members. His spirit lives. His spirit will always live. As I read about the many gifted people on death rows throughout the States it makes me question why? Why do the majority in the States believe that these human beings on death rows throughout the States cannot be given another chance at life? I have lost an Uncle through murder and his murderer was high on 'P' when he committed it.......of course I hated him.....I cannot forgive him and upon researching the murderer's life history, the answer is there like all our people on death rows. People are human beings. Long Live Tookie!! PS: I am from New Zealand and use Tookie's books for rehabilitation. The States have killed a wonderful role model and leader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Despite Williams's death, his books will forever change the world. Yes, he committed murders and co-founded one of the most notorious gangs, but you cannot forget how he is changing the world. In this book he tells us how bad and painful being in prison is. It is a great book to read if you or your child is in a gang. It helps you realize the consequences you face if you are caught.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Williams has realized the errors of his ways and wants to right them. He has made an attempt to do this through a series of children's books. The prisons talk rehabilitation but have often fail. They spend more money on the prison systems than educations. Only God can and will read Mr. Williams' heart and he will judge him according. Man has dominated man to his injury. True justice in this world will only be achieved from God.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tookie is a born leader. From the founding of an infamous gang to his repentant messages of today. Tookie has valuable messages for young people to make good choices and value their life and others with good choices. Tookie warns others not to make the bad choices he did and he communicates the end results and realities of these bad choices. Tookie is honest and only God knows how many lives he has changed and saved with his messages a generation needs to hear.
STEVEOFISHER More than 1 year ago